Posted on July 17 2019
Forgiveness is defined as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
It’s something you’ve likely experienced throughout your life as both the giver and receiver. Forgiveness is everywhere we look: in movies, books, T.V. shows, in our own complex lives with our family and friends. Forgiveness can even span generations. Unsurprisingly, essentially every religion speaks heavily on forgiving others for hurtful words, actions, or deeds, rather than retaliating or seeking vengeance. Regardless if you’re religious, spiritual, or neither - forgiveness is (and will always be) a part of our daily lives.
Someone cut you off in traffic?
A coworker said something nasty to you?
Someone took your laundry out of the dryer before it was dry?
Someone cut in line at the grocery store?
These seemingly small annoyances add up and negatively impact your health.
When we are unforgiving we are angry, we’re hurt, we’re upset. These feelings trigger a stress response in our bodies. The stress response, fight or flight, is activated. This is very helpful for when we’re running away from a bear, but not so much when we’re stuck in traffic on the way home from work. If we have chronic flight or fight responses, damage can be caused to your body. It raises your cortisol levels which raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure makes you more susceptible to developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
Does forgiveness improve your health? YES!
Studies have shown that being more forgiving and practicing more forgiveness actually does affect your health. Positively! These benefits include lower blood pressure, cholesterol, improved sleep, less anxiety, depression, and stress.
Forgiveness is great for our health - but how do we learn to be better at forgiveness?
Ways to Learn Forgiveness
Dr. Everett Worthington, renowned researcher, author, speaker, and emeritus Professor on forgiveness knows first hand what it’s like to practice forgiveness. Well acquainted from family tragedies, Dr. Everett developed a model for learning to process and take you through the steps of forgiveness. It’s called REACH: which stands for recall the hurt, empathize, altruistic gift, commitment, and holding on to forgiveness.
R - recall the hurt
Remember what happened. Acknowledge the pain. Why you feel this way. It’s okay to feel pain during this time. Remember the hurt but allow it to no longer control or limit you. Feelings suck for real.
E - empathize
Think of the person or event who wronged you. What could have happened in their life to make them behave in such a way? Gaining insight into those who have wronged you enables you to see the person as human, as a scared little girl, as a friend. Recognizing the other person’s humanity gives you a little space between the action and the person.
A - altruistic gift
View this forgiveness as a gift. Forgiveness is solely for you. Completely and utterly just about you. Something you freely give away. Showing compassion makes it easier to let go of pain.
C - commitment
Continuing to say yes - following the path to forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness is for yourself.
H - hold onto forgiveness
Doubt may creep in, something might trigger you remembering old hurts. Remember that this is something you’ve already forgiven. You did it.
As hard as it may be, practicing forgiveness will benefit you in the long term. It can provide you with ease of mind and clarity.
Have you experienced the benefits of forgiveness? Let us know in the comments below!